Surgeons Make New Recommendations on Performing Brazilian Butt Lifts

A series of NBC 6 Investigations led a team of doctors to make new recommendations on how to perform one of the most common cosmetic surgeries and what type of instrument should be used.

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The NBC 6 Investigators found at least 12 women died in South Florida after undergoing a Brazilian butt lift procedure. Most of the women were mothers who traveled to different clinics in the Miami area from states like West Virginia, Missouri, Louisiana and the Bahamas. "The reporting on this issue was essential because it really highlighted the presence of this issue and how common this was," said Dr. Pat Pazmino of Miami. "South Florida and the reporting here has educated the rest of the country on the safety issue of this procedure."
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A Brazilian butt lift procedure is when fat is removed from unwanted places on a patient’s body, through liposuction, and reinjected into the patient’s backside. It’s known in the medical community as a fat transfer procedure.
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The NBC 6 Investigators found most of the women in South Florida died of a fat embolism. That’s when a piece of fat gets into the bloodstream and causes a patient to stop breathing.
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A team of doctors from across the country, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil traveled to Miami to study how the deaths may have been caused and to issue new recommendations on how the procedure should be performed.
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The group of doctors from the Muti-Society Task Force on Gluteal Fat Grafting Safety performed the procedure numerous times on cadavers. They used X-ray imaging to see exactly where the injected fat went into the body. The task force was led by Dr. Peter Rubin of Pittsburgh, Dr. Dan Mills of Laguna Beach and Dr. Renato Saltz of Salt Lake City.
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After a year, the doctors completed the study and are issuing new recommendations on how the procedure should be performed. They believe complications occur when fat is injected too deep under the surface of the skin and into the patient’s muscle. They’re recommending doctors to only inject fat three centimeters or less under the surface of the skin. Their results are being announced to an international audience at The Aesthetic Meeting in New Orleans and will be published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal this summer.
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The task force is also recommending all surgeons to use a thicker cannula - that’s the metal instrument used when injecting fat. Dr. Pat Pazmino, a member of the task force, says, "The thinner the instrument, the more it will bend." The task force is urging all plastic surgeons to know where the tip of the cannula is at all times when inserting it under the surface of the skin.
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The NBC 6 Investigators were credited in a separate study that was published in 2017 in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal. The series of investigations sparked a worldwide study that found a patient is up to 20 times more likely to die of a Brazilian butt lift than any other cosmetic surgery.
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A new law was passed in Florida in May of 2019 that gives the Florida Medical Board more authority to discipline doctors in the case of serious injury or death. It also requires all plastic surgery centers to be registered to doctors.
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